Copyright BombRecently, there was a great disturbance in the Web, as if millions of blogs suddenly cried out and were suddenly silenced. It was all for one of them doing something it probably shouldn’t have: posting a copy of the Beck Hopelessness Scale on the Web.

Edublogs is a service that hosts teaching blogs, and the whole shebang — 1.45 million different blogs! — was shut down altogether by the Internet server company that hosts the service. This was because one teacher on that big system forgot an important thing: anything you put on the public Web is legally considered “published.” It’s the same as putting someone else’s work in a book, printing that book and distributing it to book stores.

Pearson, the company that publishes Dr. Beck’s Hopelessness Scale, sent a take-down notice to the company that performs Internet hosting services for Edublogs. I doubt that Dr. Beck, the long-time educator and father of CBT, would be interested in taking down an educational service over a few bucks (if that) in royalties. It’s not Dr. Beck that Edublogs is dealing with, however, it’s a publishing company. If you post any copyrighted assessment, treatment, or other material on your website, you’ll likely be dealing with a big publishing company, too.

The Moral of the Story

It’s easy to post material on your website for use by clients and colleagues. However, you’ll be in violation of intellectual property law if you post any copyrighted materials.

Check your website for:

  • Assessment or self-help instruments you got from a book, magazine, training or website. Make sure the materials aren’t copyrighted. If they are, make sure you have permission to publish them.
  • Intake or other forms that are copyrighted by someone else.
  • Articles that you re-posted from elsewhere.
  • Any material that you got from someone else. If they didn’t explicitly tell you it’s okay to re-post/publish it, they may not be happy about you doing so.

If you have other ideas about copyright pitfalls to look out for, please post in the comments!

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